In their natural environment, plants are constantly exposed to a wide variety of microbes. These include plant pathogens, which can infect the plant tissue to gain access to energy: soil-borne pathogens enter into root, but also can migrate to xylem or phloem. Air-borne pathogens infect aerial parts such as leaves, stems, or fruits.
We aim at understanding various aspects of the infection process in two different fungal systems:
Ustilago maydis / Zea mays
Role of Rrm4-dependent mRNA transport in pathogenic development
(in collaboration with RAB lab)
The phytopathogen Ustilago maydis is the causative agent of the corn smut disease. During its non-pathogenic phase U. maydis proliferates yeast-like via budding while colonization of its host plant Zea mays requires a morphological transition to infectious filaments. The formation of filaments and subsequent in planta proliferation sets special requirements on the long-distance transport of macromolecules like proteins, lipids, as well as mRNAs. The RNA-binding protein Rrm4 of U. maydis mediates microtubule-dependent mRNA-transport. rrm4-deletion strains show reduced virulence since plants show attenuated disease symptoms. Thus, we hypothesize that the reduced virulence might be due to defects in plant/fungus communication.
- Unraveling the molecular function of Rrm4-dependent mRNA transport during pathogenic development.
Thecaphora thlaspeos / Arabis spps
Smut fungi are a wide-spread group of plant pathogens that infect agriculturally important crop plants such as maize or potato. During the major part of their life cycle, these Basidiomycetes grow as endophytes inside the host without causing disease symptoms. Only at late stages of infection they interfere with seed development by producing large amounts of fungal spores. To date, no infection system of Brassicaceae with Basidiomycetes is studied at the molecular level. Therefore we set out to investigate the interaction between Thecaphora spps and their Arabis hosts aiming at a smut infection system, in annual and perennial hosts from the same family can be compared.
- Establish a Brassicaceae – smut infection system
- Compare smut infection strategies in annual vs. perennial hosts